I’m sure you’re thinking, hang on, didn’t I read a report of the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon last year? The answer’s yes, you did, because I ran this race in March 2015 and also in October 2014. I really like the races that the organiser (Run Through) put on and Wimbledon Common is a nice part of the world, so I signed up yet again.
It was foggy on the way over to Wimbledon, and quite chilly too.
I cycled from Putney to the rugby grounds where the race starts, and locked my bike up by the pavilion. Normally the toilets at the pavilion are open but they were padlocked shut, and I could see a line of people stretching across an entire rugby pitch queuing for portaloos, so was pleased I’d arrived in good time. I then noticed that there was a disabled portaloo right next to the bike stands and tried the door – it was open. I went in. It was pristine – spotless floor, plenty of loo roll, hand sanitiser dispenser full. What a treat!
As I now didn’t have to queue, I had loads of time to get really cold at the start line and faff around pinning my number on. Music was blaring from the loudspeakers and I tried to surreptitiously position myself near the family with a Dalmatian puppy.
There was a staggered start and I joined the 2hr+ group. We were sent on our way by a womble and then we were off!
The ground was slippery right from the start, with the first few hundred metres on grass. I’m so unused to running on grass, particularly wet, muddy grass. We soon headed onto the trail and some real mud! The back of Putney Vale Cemetery heads steadily upwards but isn’t that bad and there’s then a steeper hill on the other side of the cemetery, but it wasn’t as hard as I remembered. Much muddier than I’d done before though!
There weren’t that many runners (579 total) but it was definitely hard to do my own thing when there was often only a narrow route through the mud. I was wearing my brand new trail shoes (£8.99 from Decathlon, bargain!) but I had no idea how much grip they really had and I’m a naturally cautious person so find it hard to pelt through ground that I’m unsure of. Plus sometimes people in front stopped completely to pick through the muddiest bits, so I had to respond to that and not go running into them.
I didn’t look at my watch very much and just ran along steadily. My calves were hurting a bit, presumably from my shoes – I normally run in stability shoes and these are fairly minimalist with a 6mm drop (my adidas have about 10mm drop), so it felt quite different underfoot.
At the end of the first lap there’s a long downhill section and a right turn along the river. This was the muddiest bit of the course and I got stuck behind a load of people tiptoeing through the mud very gingerly. Every time I tried to get past there was a tree or something in my way – and there was no womble waiting at the normal spot 😦 I headed out onto the second lap, my calves on fire and a definite blister forming on one of my toes.
There’s a charity walk that takes place each year that goes through the Common, and the half marathon overlaps with it twice each lap. On the first lap it was fine as only the faster walkers had made it this far, but by the second lap there were loads of walkers out. A lot of them have balloons tied to them and some were walking four or five abreast, and it does make it quite tricky to get past.
At 15km I decided to put my headphones in and listen to music as my motivation was waning a little bit, and I didn’t really get my mojo back again. After walking for a minute at 15km, I then took a couple more walking breaks at 17.5km, 19km and (inexplicably) 20km.
The final bit of the course turns back onto the grass and I tried to sprint this but turns out I still can’t run on grass very well and my sprint was just a slightly faster jog. As I neared the finish line I heard one runner behind me encourage his friend to take me on the line. Not a chance, I thought, and I won that race. Ha. Shallow victory.
I stumbled off to get a flapjack and a banana, having to walk a bit like a pony as my big toe hurt a lot. I also finally drank some water – during the Cambridge Half Marathon I drank quite a bit of water, probably three 250ml bottles, and I feel like this was too much. So I didn’t drink any at all during this one, and I definitely didn’t feel like I needed it, though it was nice to down some water at the end!
Got myself a nice medal:
I got my bike and cycled towards Wimbledon town centre, probably the least scenic route (along a dual carriageway) but not muddy. When I was nearly there I spotted a Waitrose and before I knew it I was off the bike and in the cafe enjoying a cherry danish and a cappuccino. How does that happen?!
As I left Waitrose I saw more of the walkers, and heard a man cheering them – this was their halfway point. I had no idea how long the entire route was but assumed it was a very very long way as I could see a queue out the door of the nearby branch of Greggs. Turns out it was a 14 mile walk, so I feel somewhat cheered that I managed to run 13.1 miles without stopping for a steak bake.
- Total time: 2:16:27
- This is 90 seconds slower than Cambridge, despite having mud and hills
- This is 3 mins faster than last year, in the dry, and 10 mins faster than the year before.